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Reporting Iraq

An Oral History of the War by the Journalists who Covered It

Included are contributions from fifty international journalists, including Dexter Filkins, The New York Times correspondent who won widespread praise for his coverage of Fallujah; Rajiv Chandrassekaran, author of Imperial Life in the Emerald City; Anthony Shadid of the Washington Post, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his war coverage; Richard Engel of NBC; Anne Garrels of NPR, and other star reporters from both the print and broadcast world, not to mention their translators, photo journalists, and a military reporter.

All come together to discuss the war from its beginning on, and they hold back nothing on the violence they faced—Farnaz Fassihi of the Wall Street Journal talks about her near-kidnapping by “five men with AK-47s” chasing her car. (“I kept thinking, ‘This is it.'”) Nor do they hold back discussing how this impacted their work—British reporter Patrick Cockburn of The Independent notes that “One had to spend an enormous amount of time thinking about one’s own security,” and NPR reporter Deborah Amos observes that it was even more complicated for women: “As time went on we had to dress as Iraqi women, in the most conservative costumes Iraqi women would wear.”

But perhaps the most fascinating—and chilling—observation is that most saw a disaster in Iraq unfolding long before they were allowed to report it. As Jon Lee Anderson of The New Yorker puts it, various governmental authorities and the media’s own fears combined “to keep bad news away from the public,” an observation supported by over 21 stunning, full-color photographs—many of which have never been published before due to such censorship.

Collected by the editors of America’s most prestigious media monitor, the Columbia Journalism Review, such revelations make Reporting Iraq a fascinating and unique look at the war, as well as an important critique of international press coverage.

MIKE HOYT is the executive editor of the Columbia Journalism Review, where he has written and edited many articles about journalism and its challenges. Before CJR, he was a freelance magazine writer, a copy editor, and a reporter for two dailies. He lives in Teaneck, New Jersey.

JOHN PALATELLA is literary editor of The Nation. His essays and reviews have appeared in numerous publications, including The Nation, the London Review of Books, Bookforum and Boston Review.

“A searing document, one of the most revealing chronicles of the war yet published. It is as though correspondents are talking late into the night, trying to explain what it was like, what sights and smells haunt them, what they’re proud of and what they regret, what they saw coming and what they didn’t.” —Anthony Swofford, The Washington Post

“[A] fascinating account of trying to report on a war unprecedented in its danger for the media…. The reporters’ accounts here are notable for their studied neutrality. Blood flows, bodies and limbs pile up. They hear the whistle of bullets and whoosh of mortars.” —Los Angeles Times

“A terrific new resource for understanding what really happened—and is happening—in Iraq. A gritty and gripping narrative history of the run–up to war to the present quagmire.” —The Nation

“[A] harrowing portrait of what it was like to live and work in Iraq as the country rapidly descended into chaos.” —Forbes

“An excellent oral history… Being conversational, Reporting Iraq is much easier to read than a long news story. It is also blunt, and the reader may be thankful that it is organized so it can be taken in small doses.” —The Seattle Times

“Describes the dangers reporters face trying to cover a conflict where just looking foreign makes you suspicious and where roadside bombs are a random and constant threat.” —The Chicago Tribune

“Free from the constraints of objective journalism, the reporters hold nothing back and paint an almost uniformly bleak picture of life in post-Saddam Iraq…. While Reporting Iraq is unlikely to win reporters any new friends—especially among those who already hold them in low regard— the book offers the serious reader a fascinating glimpse into the mind of the Baghdad press corps.” —The Houston Chronicle

“[A]n intimate look at the stories behind the stories reported out of Iraq. The reporters offer early observations that don’t make it into journalistic reports: changes in the expectations that Americans would be greeted as liberators, the personal perils of everyday life, the distancing from the action as Iraqis became more suspicious of journalists, and changes in perceptions of the American mission in Iraq….More illuminating than straightforward reporting.” —Booklist

“The interviews make clear the difficulties in obtaining accurate information during war and insurgency. Many of the journalists developed good working relationships with Iraqi citizens, and they talk about how the war has changed their own lives forever. An enlightening look at the Iraq war.” —Library Journal

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